L.A. Noire Review - The Parent's Guide to Video Games - The Game Store Guy Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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L.A. Noire Review - The Parent's Guide to Video Games

 L.A. Noire Review

Kid Safe: Very Low                           Game Quality: Very High


Genre: Open-World Crime Drama

-          As an open-world title, this game emphasizes a player's ability to go anywhere and do anything at anytime they so choose; allowing them to simply follow the story or explore a fully realized world that is filled with characters and locations. Likewise, as a crime-drama, this title follows the investigations, inquiries, and mysteries attached to being a police officer.

Internet Requirements: Low

-          L.A. Noire features a low amount of internet requirements, generally allowing a player to enjoy this title without being connected online. There are two aspects that would require an internet connection: the first being a player's ability to purchase and download "downloadable content" to lengthen their gameplay experience; the second being the limited ability for players to "Ask the Community" about certain crimes for help in solving investigations.

Story Summary: In L.A. Noire, you play the role of Cole Phelps, an ex-marine officer who moved to

Los Angeles looking for work and whom quickly found himself sucked into the role of the city's guardian angel. As Phelps, you progressively move up through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department, starting off as a beat cop patrolling the streets and moving up through the LAPD's Traffic, Homicide, Vice, and Arson departments. As you work your way up, you will not only be faced with criminals attempting to get away clean, but also be forced to push back against a police force that has quickly been corrupted by the big money and quick cars of the city of Lost Angels.

Kid Safe: Very Low - Not Recommended for Children

-          Foul Language: Very High - Not Recommended for Children

o   L.A. Noire has a very high amount of foul language; featuring a large number of words which includes, but is not limited to, "f*ck", "motherf*cker", "a*s", "d*mn", "s*ut", "c*nt", "n*gger", "b*tch", "h*ll", "w*ore", "k*ke", "sp*c", and a number of variations on the aforementioned terms. These words are spoken, heard, and seen written down in a variety of locations and are featured in numerous occasions throughout cutscenes and regular gameplay alike. Foul language is not specific to any person and is often heard by almost all characters throughout the game and is used regularly in dialogue without any necessary concern to excessive anger or frustration.

-          Violence and Gore: Very High - Not Recommended for Children

o   As a crime drama game investigating a couple of dozen homicides, L.A. Noire features exactly what you might expect: a very high amount of both violence and gore. Starting off with the player's ability to inflict harm onto others; players will be required to shoot and kill criminal individuals during certain scenes. All characters that the player shoots are convicted criminals that are firing upon the player or threatening to injure or kill others. Players will use a number of firearms that include pistols, rifles, machines guns, and shotguns and will be able to engage enemies in fist-fights. Finally, players will also be able to use their vehicle in the game to run down and disable or kill enemies and civilians alike, although the civilians tend to do a pretty good job of staying out of the way to avoid injury and players would need to be dedicated to actually hit one.

o   Injuries inflicted on enemies and players alike stain clothing with blood and reveal wounds on the body. When shot or hit, enemies will spray a red bloody mist. When killed, enemies will drop down very realistically; most often slowly dropping and collapsing from pain and eliciting cries of agony lest they are shot in the head, which causes an instant bodily collapse.

o   A number of cutscenes throughout the game reflect sudden and extreme acts of violence and gore. Examples of these include a character being hit by a car and sliding across the street, a woman who is dragged crying from a car before she is repeatedly and savagely beaten with a socket wrench, and a woman who is unexpectedly hit across the head with a tire iron. Excluding murder scenes, characters will also witness additional scenes touching on sensitive subjects such as racism, religion, and sexism which will often lead to scenes of violence; one perfect example being a police officer who walks in on a sobbing and upset actress only to hit her in the face and insult her.

o   Lastly, the crime scenes tend to be the goriest part of this game. The leftovers of a murder or crime that need to be investigated, players will find themselves faced with a wide variety of particularly gruesome details. A car completely flooded with blood, a woman who has been brutally beaten and strangled to death, a windshield shattered and bloody, a woman's head who had been caved in to expose skull, and more represent just a few of the particularly brutal scenes. Players will most often then need to personally investigate the body, looking at most every aspect of a corpse (normally the face/neck, the arms/hands, and the chest) while  checking for clues.           

-          Sexually-Related Content: Very High - Not Recommended for Children

o   L.A. Noire features a very high amount of sexually related content relating to full nudity, sexual reference, and sexually related cases. Starting off, characters will find themselves exposed to a variety of nudity throughout the gameplay. Several particular instances that stand out include a number of investigations where women have been found murdered and stripped of their clothing. Women are depicted fully nude with bare breasts and patches of pubic hair.

o   Aside from direct nudity, players will also run into a number of sexual references and sexually-related content in their cases. Very often with autopsies, especially those where the victim were found nude or in a manner that suggests rape or sexual content, autopsy reports will touch on whether or not vaginal or anal walls were damaged as well as whether semen was found in or on the victim in question. Likewise, side characters occasionally talk about women being "loose" or needing to "give it up" in reference to sexual acts.

o   Not limited to just autopsy reports, players will also experience cases where they are investigating or they stumble upon matters of sexually related content. Some of these cases also include matters of young women  who are legally minors and still in their early teenage years who have been sexually violated or engaged in sexual content. One early case in particular references a young girl who, while attempting to enter into the movie industry, is drugged and sexually violated while the supposed casting team films it. Another early example includes the discovery of a convicted child molester who has been stalking and attacking young girls at a local high school.

-          Use of Drugs and Alcohol: Very High - Not Recommended for Children

o   L.A. Noire features a very high amount of drug and alcohol usage through both visual representation as well reference to drug usage. Men and women are often depicted smoking cigars and cigarettes as well as drinking a number of alcoholic beverages in bars, restaurants, at home, and in a large number of public places. During investigations and interrogations, players will also discover a number of used alcohol and cigarette containers, as well as hearing reference to alcoholism and engaging in alcoholic consumption from both perpetrators and police personnel. One of the player's partners is especially guilty of this as he is often drunk or making references to drinking throughout the entire time you spend with him.

o   Aside from legal drug consumption,  this title also features reference and scenes to illegal or controlled drug usage. Players will occasionally discover drugs as evidence including marijuana, amphetamines, morphine, hydrochloride, and more. Certain characters throughout the game will occasionally make reference to using, having used, or being under the influence of a number of these intoxicants. Players will also see scenes where a individuals are being given injections of morphine from a doctor in order to help control their nerves.       

Game Quality: Very High

-          Graphics / Visuals: Very High

o   L.A. Noire stands as a shining example of the opportunity for video games to step on the movie industry's toes and allow players to enjoy and literally PLAY an interactive story; or set of stories as is the case in this title. L.A. Noire's three major strengths include it's facial animations, recreation of 1940's Los Angeles, and it's vivid story telling. Starting with the facial animations, L.A. Noire boasts the most top of the line facial animations to date. What this means it that this title has set the bar for what a game is capable of in conveying realistic emotions through a virtual character. Using live actors, developers Rockstar Games have used state of the art technology to bring every subtle expression and movement to a video game console. Characters look and act real, portraying very real emotion for anger, happiness, sadness, frustration, and everything in between down to the very slight cracks of a smile, the subtle narrowing of the eyes, and the faintest twitch of suppressed anger. Currently, no other game can match it.

o   Not stopping at state of the art facial animations, the team at Rockstar Games went to great lengths to virtually recreate a full 8 square miles of 1940's Los Angeles. Using city planning, photographs, what very few aerial shots exist from the time period, and more, L.A. Noire boasts one of the most accurate representations of a real city to be available on the video game market. Players familiar with Los Angeles' older roads will be able to navigate them just like they do in real life. Being a Southern Californian resident, I even decided to test this and, to my amazement, it's completely accurate. Not only did the team fully include streets and sectors of the city that would have been there, but they even included a number of key buildings and businesses that have been around for the last 70 years.

o   Finally, if the first two points weren't enough, L.A. Noire's last major strength is its vivid storytelling. Harkening back to the Film Noire pieces that the game was originally inspired by, the game attempts to recreate the feel of these movies by using similar title screens, the occasional black and white fade, and a number of camera tricks that older film developers used to use. Likewise, cutscenes are beautifully acted out by the live action actors who helped contribute to this games creation; adding an air of a top-dollar Hollywood crime drama. There were a number of times where I literally had people simply sitting and watching the game as though it were a film while I sat and played.

-          Audio: Very High

o   Matching perfectly with the excellent visual quality of this title, L.A. Noire boasts a very high level of audio quality to the gameplay experience. The game's two major strengths include  its voice acting and its musical score. Starting off with the voice acting, I have to say that I'm not sure which is better: their visual or their audio representation. With L.A. Noire boasting a list of DOZENS of actor, this title is absolutely filled to the brim with talent. Renowned actors Michael McGrady, Andrew Connolly, Aaron Staton, Adam Harrington, and Keith Szarabajka are just a handful of names who dedicated their abilities to make this game an absolute success. Every line is nailed, timing is perfect, the emotion is there, and I don't think I could have asked for more from a big-time Hollywood film; after-all, the game takes place in Hollywood already.

o   Maybe you don't much care about voice acting; perhaps you are a bit more musically inclined. We hope that you enjoy tunes from the late 30's and early 40's because L.A. Noire has it in groves and helps to perfectly balance out how this game feels. Using classical jazz, swing, very early rock, and more, Rockstar Games creates an atmosphere reminiscent of the time period. Whether you are driving and listening to the radio, walking through a home, building, or bar, or if you are just walking along the street while the soft jazz plays in the background; player's ears are always cascaded with the sounds of the times. If you are a fan of the era, we highly recommend picking up the soundtrack whether or not you are even wanting to play the game as it is filled with a number of classic pieces and tasteful remixes.

-          Gameplay / Playability: Very High

o   So L.A. Noire sounds good and looks great, what of the actual gameplay? Another piece of excellence. L.A. Noire features an extremely high level of both gameplay and playability. As always, starting with playability, the game features rather well to the casual and veteran gamer alike. While the game uses controls common to open-world titles, especially those like Red Dead Redemption or Grand Theft Auto, it does not make the assumption that you know how to play and slowly and calmly introduces each basic control. This is done off to the side in a visible fashion that references the buttons on the controller for those players unfamiliar with the system while also being out of the way enough that those who HAVE played these games can ignore it easily. Next, the game leads the player through a number of missions that helps to introduce each of the game's major features including crime scene investigation, interrogation, chases, and gunplay one by one so that they might get acquainted to each without worry of the next. Finally, the game always helps to make subtle hints as to a player's investigation with slight audio or visual cues to let them know whether they are on the right track or if they ought to reconsider their though process.

o   And finally, last but entirely not least, the gameplay: L.A. Noire quite simply hits the bulls-eye. Seamlessly integrating crime scene investigation, inquiries, witness interrogation, chasing down criminals, and the occasional shoot-out or brawl, L.A. Noire expertly recaptures the Film Noire experience and allows players to actually play it for themselves. Players won't find themselves roped solely into solving Los Angeles' major crimes either. All one has to do is hop into any number of different vehicles and away they go, off to explore the city and, should they want to, answer the call to duty as random street crimes pop up throughout the city including everything from muggings to burglary and even crazed shooters. The game rarely feels limited and almost always has something new to try out and experience.

o   The one note that I feel I should make is concerning developer Rockstar Games' previous title Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. Many gamers who will be looking at this game might think that L.A. Noire will be extremely similar to these past titles; such is not the case. L.A. Noire has a VERY intense focus on investigation and interrogation and players who pick it up for a more gun-focused and action oriented game will most likely not generally enjoy this title.

-          Dollar-Value: Very High

o   Overall, L.A. Noire has an incredibly high dollar-value. Not only does it have some of the most enjoyable gameplay and some of the best audio and visuals on the market, the game is HUGE. Players who pick this game up on Xbox 360 will find themselves playing through 3 full game discs. (To answer your question, yes, the normal game only takes up a single disc.) So long as you can handle the extreme amount of adult-rated content this game can dish out, this title will boast anywhere from 30 hours PLUS of gameplay as you play through the different departments, street missions, and generally just explore everything it has to offer. 

 

Recommendations

-          Very few open world games exist that are not rated M for Mature. However one of our best recommendations for a younger audience might be inFAMOUS, which is rated T for Teens and boasts super-hero overtones. If you are not bothered by adult content, we would highly recommend the Grand Theft Auto series or Red Dead Redemption. Finally, if you are more driven by a compelling mystery and, again, don't mind mature content, we would recommend Heavy Rain or Indigo Prophecy.

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